I read this in a Facebook post yesterday. It is only a partial quote and, as it was Facebook, I won't attribute it but I have told the writer about this post:
'... for me the general issue would not be of orientation but of conduct. Church rules on sex and marriage are clear enough for all clergy, lesbian, gay or straight. I hope ... is able, with the help of others and God, to abide by them and if so I've absolutely no problem with her having lesbian sexual orientation.'
You probably know who the writer was talking about but it is not of importance.
Most of my regular readers will know that I make a point of not disclosing my views on sexual orientation and I continue not to. The point of this post is something else which grabbed my attention - abiding by the rules.
It is not illegal for a clergy person to marry someone of the same sex. It is not legal, to solemnise such a relationship in a Church of England Church building. The bishops's guidelines on same sex marriages for clergy say:
‘...it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in Holy Orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives’ (House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance 2013).
Not illegal, but not appropriate.
This guidance gave the strongest possible hint that those who had stated their aim to do such a thing, Canon Jeremy Pemberton being the first, should expect to be disciplined. He and others have been.
The interesting question is that a number of people have chosen to openly disobey the rules, judging that their desire to marry their partner was greater than their desire not to be disciplined. They took their chances. There has not been a landslide (yet) and we do not know, obviously, how many have quietly and discretely married and are waiting to be discovered.
As the number of those disciplined slowly increases so will the view take shape that this is a bad piece of guidance. The LGBT community do have people with extraordinary gifts of empathy, compassion and general social skills and contribute good pastors to the church. As these pastors diminish so will the feeling grow that the C of E is self-destructing.
The guidance is in place, I think mainly, because the church needs to work out its relationship with other parts of the the Anglican communion where LGBTs are treated more harshly. So it will change but slowly.
And of course the Church of England is full of others, myself included, who break all sorts of rules and guidelines and are not disciplined. Because the rules I break are not about sex. We are not very good at this.